As Zoe Samudzi pointed out this morning, it is impossible to see the images coming out of occupied Palestine and to not think of Apartheid South Africa; of the brutality of a government that attempts to displace, extinguish and erase all existence of a people who complicate a state narrative.
Two settler colonies – Australia and Israel – and seventy years on, existing here, my family has come to know both intimately. While in Australia we have benefited from our proximity to whiteness, despite the Islamophobia and the surveillance our communities are subjected to. In Israel, we are Indigenous with no legal rights.
Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray lamented the importance of words when he mused ‘How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel!’ However, in the modern, post-truth reality that we live in, words are often cruel without being clear or vivid, and have been cleverly employed by international media in describing the Israeli response to the Great March of Return protests.
The mass expulsion of Palestinians was overwhelming in its scope. Arab Palestine was erased and replaced with Jewish Israel. It is estimated that between 750,000 and 900,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and became refugees in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. About 500 villages were destroyed and Palestinian cities were purged of their Arab residents. Only 160,000 Palestinians remained in what became Israel. But Nakba Day is as much about the present as it is about the past.
I don’t remember the second time I heard about the Nakba, but I can see its traces every day.
I see it when my friends are separated from their families and arbitrarily denied movement on their own land.
I see it when soldiers enter private homes in the middle of the night just because they can, terrorising children.